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14 August Cambridge Bay,

Tiama’s Great Adventure Update 3, Amongst

The Ice Tiama departed Nome Alaska on 22 July, soon after the last crew member arrived it was time to get out of town. Met some fantastic local people but the crew were getting restless and would only get into more trouble had we stayed longer. Headed out into the Bering Sea on a nice sunny day with some apprehension about Ice conditions around Point Barrow about 4 days sailing north.

On entering the funnel shaped Bering strait between Russia and Alaska the wind picked up to a bit of a draft, 50 knots gusting 60, right behind us. After dropping all the sails Tiama was still doing 7 to 8 knots under bare poles, a great way to enter the Arctic circle, it certainly broke in the new crew members. Rounding Point Barrow, (America’s most northern point of land) turned out to be a non event, although the compass went a bit crazy and did full circle all on its own. Finally encountered our first sea ice 60 miles further east.

By staying close to the coast we avoided the dense pack and stayed mostly in open water with the occasional patches of 1 to 3/10 ice concentration. Where there was ice there was fog, but otherwise good conditions. I keep thinking how is this going to work when it gets dark, but of course we have 24 hours light at the moment. It takes a bit of getting used to!

After 24 hours we Anchored off Cross Island, a small sand spit 25 miles north of the mainland, with a bunch of ramshackle hunting huts and about 100 Bowhead whale head bones lined up on the beach proof of recent successful hunting expeditions by the locals Inuit population. We all wanted to go ashore and explore but decided to have nap first, when we next poked our head out we saw a mama polar bear with 2 very cute cubs walking ashore with an attitude showing that this was their beach. After a few hours another bear arrived and then another, until there were 10 polar bears wandering around on the shore. Maybe not a good place to go and explore.

But what an extraordinary place to arrive as our first anchorage in the Arctic. The whole Eastern side of Cross Island was stacked with big lumps of Pack Ice, forced ashore by the strong 30 knot easterlies from which we were sheltering, 48 hours later when the wind abated, the ice went and so did most of the Polar Bears,   but we were not brave enough to step ashore, in case some of the Bears were still lurking around the buildings. When we came close in with the dingy for a look one of them stood up all of sudden to full height to see how close we were actually going to come to the beach, he was obviously looking for a wee snack.

Cross Island is in an interesting position right in front of Prudhoe Bay, the major U.S. oil producing bay in Alaska, so if you look to the island, you see the Arctic in its full glory, Ice Polar bears, mirages etc. and if you look to the mainland you see oil production platforms, pumping the stuff out of the ground that is actually destroying the habitat of the Polar Bears due to climate change. I was in these waters in February, March, April 2000 camping on the frozen sea Ice part off a Greenpeace campaign trying to stop the building of the North Star artificial island by B.P. This time we sailed close by with Tiama in relative open waters to watch the oil production rig in full flow, with a big gas flame on top burning off the excess natural gas that they didn’t want. A spooky sight in the mist.

After that no more Ice to be seen for a while, Herschel island was our first anchorage in Canada, an important place for the whaling industry and later for the oil industry, lots of remnant’s of both those high impact industries all around us, currently the islands is getting an onslaught by the sea, they lost 15 meters of foreshore in the last 2 weeks due to changing winds related to climate change.


We cleared customs in the small hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk the Royal Mounted Police acting as customs officer and also issuing us with a gun licence, this part of Canada is mostly dry and it was refreshing to see no drunken locals in the street, the opposite was true in Nome Alaska. Tuk is the en-route supply town for the western Arctic, with most of the goods coming 1000 miles down the Mackenzie river on barges, we saw one such rig entering the harbour 3 massive barges pushed by one tug, loaded with diggers, trucks and containers impressive seamanship involved in handling something like that downriver.

Everybody has settled into life onboard, moving in step doing the Tiama Tango around each other in the 10 Square meters of floor space down below, there is lots of good vegetarian food coming out the galley as we all take a turn at cooking, I might yet turn some of the hardened carnivores’ away from the dark side.

Currently we are waiting in the hamlet of Cambridge bay for the ice to clear in the Central Arctic, which is the most difficult part of the North West Passage to get through, and even with climate change it is still not a given that you can pass in any given year. You can follow us, click on the heading “where is Tiama now” our position is updated every 12 hours. All is well, Regards, Henk 


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